Former attorney general of Antigua and Barbuda, Justin Simon, has described electoral reform as important and said campaign financing in the Caribbean must be addressed legislatively.
Simon, who is Dominican, told privately-owned Q-95 on Friday morning that there is a trend taking place in the region and campaign financing must be placed on the front burner.
He said matters such as how much money is spent, how much money from any particular business should be accepted, the time frame within which campaign financing should cease and vote buying, have to be addressed.
“I think it is necessary that we do that because a clean democratic system does not call for those kinds of anomalies and to allow for those things to happen,” he stressed.
Simon is of the opinion that the electorate must be educated on matters such as receiving handouts from political parties.
“They ought not to depend on handouts or monies being passed on to them during an electoral process and at the end of the day, when that is all over and done they are totally forgotten,” he noted.
According to him, the democratic process is a continuous one and is not visible only during an election.
“It is not what I can get now, it is what I can do for my country, what I expect of you in respect of my country and not a selfish now-for-now finance debt effect just for the purpose of voting,” Simon said.
In terms of electoral reform, he pointed to the complete re-registration of all voters in Antigua and Barbuda which he said was necessary to clean up that island’s voters’ list.
“The process itself took about a period of three months in terms of persons getting the opportunity to re-register,” Simon stated.
He said the new system allows for continuous registration and acknowledges that people change residence and constituencies all the time.
“Therefore the constituency in which they should be voting would change and it also accepted (that) there are persons who may be dead,” he pointed out. “It is important to clear the register of all of these anomalies.”
Additionally, Simon said, the re-registration process prevents the airlifting of Antiguans to the country just for the purpose of voting.
“You also have a situation where there are people registered, then go away, live overseas and they really have lost touch in terms of what is happening in the country and you do not want a situation where those persons can be carted in, or airlifted in just for the purposes of voting and getting back out,” he remarked. “That re-registration process cleaned and cleared this up so that you don’t have that kind of situation coming through every election.”
He argued that the process of electing a new government is a serious one and those who live in the country are in a better position to make a decision on a new government.
“I mean there are persons who actually live here, who are resident here, who go through whatever traumas or difficulties here and who can see for themselves what needs to be done, where the government itself is failing, where there ought to be improvements within the whole social milieu, or education, health and economic development,” he stated.
Simon’s party, the United Progressive Party which initiated the re-registration process, lost the general election to the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party last week but he appears to have no regrets.
“It is the will of the people but importantly the democratic process must be a process that is transparent, which is clean, viable and legitimate,” he said.